Digitalisation and the fundamental technology and structural change are future key challenges for the economy, employees and politics. In order to shape the digital change in the interest of employees, we need more co-determination in undertakings and a genuine vocational training culture in companies. And it must be ensured that the digital world of work guarantees employee rights and social security for all. That is why the Chambers of Labour Austria, Luxembourg, Bremen and Saarland adopted a joint position paper at the International Worker’s Chambers Day in Kirkel (June 2019), in which they demand a legal claim to a recognized initial professional qualification as well as a right to professional continuing vocational training with leave of absence and wage-replacement benefits.
The trend towards increasing digitalisation and automation of the world of work means change. Traditional jobs disappear, new ones are created. One thing is clear: every job will change as digitalisation finds its way everywhere. A key to ensure that digitalisation succeeds and that all these changes can be mastered is training. There is a clear connection between vocational training and unemployment: the better the qualification the smaller the risk of becoming unemployed. Good vocational training has the same effect as a protective vaccination. That is why initial and accompanying continuing vocational training have to be a matter of course in the future world of work in order to shape the changes in the world of work. They go together with restructuring processes in the economy, create individual professional promotion prospects, facilitate the adjustment to technological changes and are important elements of professional and personal development as well as social participation.
Against this background, the Chamber of Labour Saarland, the Chamber of Labour Bremen, the Chambre de salariés Luxembourg and the Chamber of Labour Austria demand, apart from increased continuing vocational training efforts, a more reliable and robust framework as well as statutory regulations for vocational training. Continuing vocational training has to be developed in the joint responsibility of state, employers and trade unions. In order to master the challenges and a future-oriented vocational training culture, the Chambers propose the following five building blocks:
1. Establishing the right to an initial vocational qualification and to continuing vocational training, guaranteed by law. These include:
- Mandatory funding systems, which fairly distribute the growth dividends between social partners while ensuring an appropriate balance of risks. To achieve this, the allocation funding method and endowment funds are the best way.
- Statutory regulations on individual training, which enable to take leave of absence with the right of return via an allowance that replaces their earnings.
- An extensive network of independent vocational training advice centres for employees.
2. Based on the tried-and-tested consensus procedure in vocational education and training between state and social partners, initial and continuing vocational education and training have to be continuously developed and interlocked with potential changes of occupation. During structural change, such a system is an important element to secure that workers are able to enter the labour market, advance in their careers and change to new occupations, for maintaining a strong skilled personnel base, for the economy and finally for stabilising the labour market.
3. Companies carry the responsibility for their employees’ in-house vocational training. Skills and training must become a key action field of a forward-thinking Human Ressources policy. Democracy does not end at business, thus, the development of company and collective bargaining regulations on skills and training shall be driven forward, companies should introduce a general right of initiative, co-determination and representation of interests on this subject and provide vocational advice by employee representatives.
4. Active labour market promotion must once again put professional continuing vocational training at the centre of promotion policy. To ensure that unemployed workers can afford to participate in continuing vocational training, it is planned to introduce a qualification or continuing vocational training payment as a new wage-replacement benefit.
5. With regard to individual, in-house continuing vocational training and to labour promotion, the political course has to be set in such a way that unskilled workers, workers with low qualifications, part-time workers or those in precarious employment get privileged access. When this has been achieved, continuing vocational training will be able to make a contribution against the polarisation of the labour market and to reducing social imbalance.
Both initial training as well as further and continuing vocational training are crucial points for the imminent changes in the world of work. Hence, implementing the demands listed here would make an important contribution to a fair world of work for all employees in the digital age.